Star of Wonder

Scripture: Isaiah 60:3, Daniel 5:11, Matthew 13:43
Date: 12/24/2011 
Who were the wisemen who traveled to see Jesus? How did they know that the star would lead them to the Messiah?
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

I’m going to share something with you you’ve probably heard many times before, but there are so many things we can learn from the Word of God that I just love this story, and I’d like to direct your attention there once again. Matthew 2:1-12. Our message today is about a star of wonder. “Star of Wonder.”

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’

“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

“So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come [forth to Me the] Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.”’

“Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search [diligently] for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.’

“When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

“Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.”

There you have the wise men. They came and they left just in 12 verses. They don’t appear in Luke or Mark or John. It’s just here in this Gospel, and there’s still a lot we can learn about these wise men and about that star, that star of wonder. You have probably heard that song before, “I wonder as I wander out under the stars.” Beautiful song.

This was a night journey that these wise men took, and they went all across this desert for about 700 miles, as near as we can tell. You realize it does not say whether they came from Iran or they came from Iraq or they came from Mesopotamia or ancient Babylon or Persia, but somewhere it just says, “the East.” They really represent to some extent the nation of the Gentiles. In order for them to track where they were going, they probably were traveling at night, and they were watching the star at night, and then they were studying the prophecies during the day, wanting to make sure that they understood. If you went on a journey back then that many miles, 700 plus miles, you’d want to know that you’re on the right journey.

We live in a different kind of age today. We’re really living in a world of artificial light. How many of you grew up on a farm where there was no artificial light? You might have had kerosene lamps or some of those Coleman lamps that they have that use the white gas. But today things are very different than they were even one generation ago. In the last century, the majority of people have moved away from the country to the cities. As of 2011, about 250 million Americans now live in urban areas surrounded by artificial light. That means more than 75% of the U.S. population rarely see the stars. Those that live on the outskirts of the cities, if you have any lighting around your house or any streetlights, you really don’t see the stars any more—not the way that you see them if you go to a high desert.

I know you’re probably tired of hearing it, but when we go to Mendocino County, and at our house, and we even have a little bit of what they call light pollution from the town that’s about 10 miles away. But west of us there are no cities, just ocean, and you look up, and there are no cities (we’re a long way from San Francisco and Eureka), and you’re just out there where you don’t have much ambient light, and you go out on the deck at night and you look up, and instead of seeing a star here and there—you know what it’s like to see the Milky Way where the sky is just creamed with these stars on this velvet background, and it’s just awesome and breathtaking.

Well, they lived back in an age where they studied the sky, because they really saw the stars back then. These wise men, suddenly a star appeared that was not normally there, and they thought, “What does this mean?” That probably leads us to the next question.

Who were these wise men? If you read in the Bible, the word is magos, or we would say “magi,” and that’s where we get the word magi or magician. Now, the wise men were not called magi because they were magicians. The word magician that we have has been over time changed and comes from the word of the magi. But the magi were really a tribe of people, as near as we can tell. They were descendents from the second wife (really, if you include Hagar, it would be the third wife of Abraham or the last wife) of Abraham, Keturah. It says the children of Keturah went to the East, and there was one tribe of them that became—they were in the Medo-Persian kingdom; they were from the Medes—they became, really, a tribe of priests that studied arithmetic and science and astronomy and astrology. Yes, we must admit they also studied astrology, which was the spiritualistic side of it; astronomy is the scientific, legitimate study of the heavens. And they were experts in math. But they were worshippers of the true God. They were descendents of Abraham, and they grew there and prospered in the land of Persia.

When you hear about the magicians being called in, and the wise men being called in, when Pharaoh had problems understanding his dream, wise men were called in. Nebuchadnezzar had problems understanding his dream; wise men were called in. All of these monarchs had the wise men in the palace. There was a tribe of these wise men that were like the priests, and when you look at some of what they did, it was very similar to the Levites. Like within the people of Israel, they had the Levites; they were the priestly tribe. No one could say, “I’d like to apply and be a wise man.” No king, in either Persia of the Medes, Babylon, was qualified to be king unless he was approved by the magi, the wise men, because they needed to be educated in the sciences and educated in math and in the signs of the heavens. So they studied these things.

It’s interesting that you can read in Isaiah 60:3, a prophecy written by Isaiah. It says, “The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” It does not specifically say that the magi were kings. At the close of our service we’ll be singing “We Three Kings.” That’s what we call them. But they were leaders. They were people of personage because they really all were in the court of the kings, and they were usually very wealthy as well.

The first words that are really spoken by anybody in the New Testament, while the angel Gabriel does speak, the first words that are spoken are spoken by Gentiles. So these wise men that come were technically what you would call non-Jews or from the Gentiles, even though they may have been related to Abraham. We don’t know what their names are. There’s a tradition that comes out of the Catholic Church, and I can’t remember what the names are. They had the three names of the wise men. Some of you who maybe grew up in the Catholic Church or went to Catholic school heard that, and they said that they were from the three sons of Abraham. Some of you remember the names. Very good. I was going to say one of them was black and one was white and one was Asian. The Bible doesn’t say that, but it’s probably good for marketing purposes.

But what’s really interesting is in the 12th century a Catholic cardinal claimed that he dug up all three skulls of the wise men, and he just got lucky, and he dug them all up. And he said that when he found them—how he knew that it was the wise men when he dug them up, I’m not sure, but he dug them up and he said, “Sure enough, these are the wise men,” and it goes on to say that, “And their eyes were still in their sockets gazing towards Bethlehem.” They now have a church dedicated there in Italy to the wise men, and in the church they have the skulls of the wise men that are all in this ornate coffin, and you can come and it’s a relic that you can worship. But I think that’s a dubious report that he just happened to locate them, because the Bible doesn’t say a lot about them, what country they came from. But we do know something about who the magi were as a people.

In connection with that, you might ask, “Why did they follow the star?” How did they know that this was going to lead them to the king? If you look in the Bible, there’s a prophecy that was given by one of the magi named Balaam. Do you remember him? He was from the East. He was a prophet. He knew about the true God, may have been one of these descendents of Abraham through Keturah. You read in Numbers 24:17 when he made that pronouncement under the encouragement of the Moabite king over Israel, speaking of Israel, he said, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter…” A scepter is something that a king bears. A shepherd has his staff; a king has a scepter. “A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.”

So you can read in the Bible that it tells us that the sky was filled with these angels, and they saw this strange supernatural light, and it appeared around the time of Christ’s birth. It was high enough in the sky that even over the turn of the earth, they could see it. They followed this star. They were part of this tribe of wise men. Even Daniel was connected. How did they get the Scriptures? Balaam may have had a copy that he brought back with him. Balaam made several trips when Israel was camped outside of Moab.

Notice, if you go to the book of Daniel, chapter 5. You know the story about the handwriting on the wall? Go to Daniel 5:11. When the King Belshazzar’s knees were smiting together, because he saw this bloodless hand writing in burning characters on the walls of Babylon, and the queen mother came and said, “There is someone who can interpret this writing,” first he called the wise men, and they couldn’t read it. But she said, “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians.”

Daniel was the chief of the magicians? Does that mean he had a circus troop that went around and visited Las Vegas and other places? Chief of the magicians. It was the chief; if you look in the Greek translation of this, the Septuagint, it’s the magous. Did the wise men in Babylon know Daniel? Did Daniel have access to the Scriptures? Do you read in Daniel chapter 9 that Daniel says he was reading the prophecies of Jeremiah? Do you think that Daniel, being the good witness that he was, wanted to share the truth with the other wise men? These are the educated people of influence in the kingdom. You can be sure they did. So in their library they were copying the sacred writings, and they knew Daniel’s writings were sacred. They knew Daniel was a prophet. Did every prophecy of Daniel come true? Was Daniel able to decipher the dreams of both the Babylonian and the Persian kings and give them understanding? Yes. So there was a connection there, with not only Abraham, but with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego.

And was there a Jewish prime minister named Mordecai in Persia and a Jewish queen named Esther? So there was tremendous Hebrew influence. A lot of the tribes didn’t come out of Babylon back to Israel; they stayed. A lot of them stayed in Persia, and they had the Scriptures there. I met a friend right here in Sacramento, and as we got to visit one day, he said, “Yes, I’m a Christian, but my family are Jews from Iran. We have been there for thousands of years.” So there were some of those tribes that were carried off to Assyria, and they migrated to Iran, and they did a lot of trading, so they had access to these Jewish Scriptures, these magi.

They saw this supernatural star appearing in the heavens. Another way that they knew how to follow the star—did God speak to the magi through dreams? Do you read in the Bible, “being warned in a dream not to return to Herod”? So were they warned in dreams? I think that God spoke to… I would not want to go on a trip chasing some star not knowing what I’m doing unless I knew I was supposed to go. That takes a lot of commitment. That was an expensive trip. It was a lengthy trip. That was a big investment of time and means. They knew that there was something significant that was happening. Furthermore, they had the inward confirmation of the Holy Spirit that this was something supernatural. You can read in John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” Does the Holy Spirit guide? Did He guide them on this journey? I believe He did.

That leads us to this next important question. In the same way that Abraham left the East, and by faith he followed the leading of God, by faith the children of Israel followed that pillar of cloud and that pillar of fire, these wise men followed this star that they saw. It says they were from the East, and they said, “We have seen His star in the East.” But did the star appear east of them or west of them? They said, “We were in the East, and while we were in the East, we saw the star,” but the star was in the West because they saw it over the land of Israel that was west of them. So they traveled at night and they followed.

Most of what we know about the wise men comes from Christmas cards, doesn’t it? And they’re not altogether accurate. For one thing, what are they usually riding? Camels. I probably have some pictures in the slide program of them riding camels, but there’s a good chance that they were riding Arabian horses, because that’s typically what the Medians… Those were the best, fastest transportation. They probably did not cross directly over the desert. They may have taken the main roads and were riding Arabian horses. We don’t know that. How many of them were there, first of all? But we’re going to sing in a minute “We Three Kings.” Have you ever seen a Christmas card with four or five or two? There are always how many? Always three. Why? Because there were three gifts, and they figure they each had a present (gold, frankincense, myrrh), so there are three of them. In reality we don’t know. There may have been three, so I don’t want to shatter your conception. There might have been three. There might have been eight of them.

They probably did not travel alone, because people of that rank in those days, carrying that much money that far, had servants. So you can understand why it caused a little bit of a disruption when they showed up in Jerusalem. If there are just three guys asking crazy questions, it might not make its way to the king. But if this whole troop shows up like when the Queen of Sheba—she was a wise queen. Remember, she not only asks Solomon questions, she asked difficult questions. She was also very bright. She came bringing gifts to the land of Israel. It stirred everybody, even found its way into the Bible because it was such a spectacle when she showed up to ask a question. The magi showed up asking questions too, didn’t they? “Where is He who has been born King…?”—first question in the New Testament. You’ve probably heard me say many times, first question that God asks in the Old Testament is “Where are you?” Man ran from God. First question you find in the New Testament is the wise men are saying, “Where is He?” We’ve been separated from God and we’re seeking to be reunited.

What was the star? Oh, you’ll hear all kinds of things. They even have programs right now. The astronomers are saying, “Well, it could have been there was an alignment of two or three planets.” Others say, “Well, it was a supernova that appeared.” “No, it was a comet that showed up at that time.” They used to believe that comets were somehow harbingers of great events, and it could be some kind of disaster. It could be the birth of a king or something. Mark Twain used to like to say… Mark Twain was born during Haley’s comet. In 1835, Haley’s comet came; Mark Twain was born. And he said, “I came in with Haley’s comet in 1835. It’s coming again next year, 1910.” He said, “I expect to go out with it.” In fact, he said he would be very disappointed if he didn’t go out with it. Then he added, even though Mark Twain was not a Christian, he said, “The Almighty has said, ‘No doubt, now here are these two unaccountable freaks. They came in together. They must go out together.’” He did; he died during Haley’s comet. It’s very interesting.

So what was this star? Was it a comet? Was it a supernova, an alignment of planets? Or was it just some bright meteorite that came down? Luke 2:13, 14. When the angels first appeared to the shepherds announcing the birth of Jesus, keep in mind, the shepherds went in and saw the Baby in the stable in the manger. The Bible says the wise men came in and saw the Child in the house. Again, I hate doing this to you, but all these manger scenes you might see set up around town… You don’t see them set up around town any more. They’re kind of illegal now, aren’t they? But some have them on their front lawns where you have the shepherds there, and you have the wise men there, and they probably never saw each other because the shepherds came very early. They were the first ones. They came right after the Baby was born. The angels announced His birth. They said, “There is born this day.” So the shepherds and the angels that appeared to the shepherds were the day of His birth. The wise men saw the star at the time he was born, and they began to study and ponder and figure and calculate and reckon and look at the prophecies—“What does this star mean?” And it stayed. They could see it, but not everybody could see it.

Now, that shouldn’t surprise you. When the children of Israel were chased by the Egyptians out of Egypt and the Egyptians wanted to destroy them before they crossed the Red Sea, God sent His pillar of fire. At night it was a pillar of fire, and this glory of the Lord illuminated the camp of Israel. But what did the Egyptians see? Darkness on their side. Same pillar. Those that knew the Lord, they saw the light. The others did not see it. So these wise men saw this supernatural light. It appeared, I told you, Luke 2:13, “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host”—a multitude—“praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”

Angels are sometimes represented as stars in the Bible. Revelation 1:20, it says, “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” Sometimes stars even symbolize bad angels, but angels are often stars. Revelation 12:3, 4, “Another sign appeared in heaven: … a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.” So when Satan was cast out of heaven, it says “his angels were cast out with him,” same chapter. So stars in the Bible are often angels.

It says (Matthew 2:9), “Behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.” Now, I can see a star being in a certain direction of the heavens, but when the star stays in one place so you can circle a house and the star is above that house, that’s no longer a heavenly body, is it? This is a supernatural shining that they’re seeing. Evidently what happened is as they crossed the vast expanse, there was this great group of angels that had appeared, first announcing Jesus, and they remained up in the heavens honoring the spot where Christ was, because He stayed in Bethlehem.

They stayed long enough for Mary to help the Baby get strength, for her to heal, and since they were already at Jerusalem, where was Jesus named? Mary and Joseph took Him to be blessed. Anna and Simeon took Him up in his arms. The Baby was circumcised; He was named. They were very poor at that point. All they could give was turtle doves. If the wise men had already appeared and given them gold and frankincense and myrrh (that was a lot of money back then), they wouldn’t have offered two doves, which was the poorest of the poorest of the poor offering that you could make. They would have given a sheep or a goat. The rich people gave bulls and oxen. They hadn’t gotten their down payment yet. The wise men had not been there yet. They stayed long enough. They were going to name the Baby.

I know Herod killed all the babies that were two years old and younger, right? He was just playing it safe. It doesn’t mean the Baby was two years old. He was trying to calculate, “I’m not going to take any chances on the edges that there is this other rogue king that’s going to take my place.” So when he found out that the Baby could be about a year old, he said, “Kill all the boys two years old and younger.”

I believe that this star was actually a cluster of stars. I shared something during Sabbath School, and I’m going to just about repeat myself because it still is just very exciting to me. Here’s my point. One star is often many stars. When you look up at night and you say, “That’s a pretty star,” you know how many times you’re looking up at a star, and to your naked eye you think it’s a star, but you get closer, and what do you see? You see a galaxy, which is a fiery pinwheel of billions and billions of blazing suns in one speck in the night sky.

Let me show you something here just to illustrate this. This is a little black piece of velvet that is approximately 1/16 of an inch. They took the Hubble Telescope, and they aimed it at a piece of the sky, back in 1996, right where the Big Dipper is, that would be that size when you hold that at arm’s length. So you have this little bitty square spot, that much of the sky where they thought there was nothing. They left the aperture, and they said, “Just as an experiment, we want to see if there’s anything there.” So for 10 days in 1996, they aimed at this little speck of the sky where there was nothing, and just really as an experiment, “I wonder what we’ll find.” You couldn’t see it with the naked eye in the telescope because it just looked like there was nothing there. You know when you leave a camera lens open longer, it captures more light, and especially if it’s perfectly fixed. They were able to lock the Hubble into this stationary fix where it doesn’t even move the slightest millimeter.

For 10 days they focused on this spot where they thought was nothing in 1996, and what they found was this next picture here. You look at it from a distance, and it was full of stars, but they saw, “Well, some of those don’t look like stars.” Some of them actually they could see were galaxies. The next picture here is a little closer shot of what they saw. In that little spot that I showed you, they found 3,000 galaxies. I don’t know if you’re getting that yet. You look up in the night sky at a little fleck that big and say, “There are 3,000 galaxies.” Those galaxies each have billions and billions of stars in them. That’s just what they could see.

That was so exciting to them. They did an upgrade on the Hubble. Two years later they sent the Space Shuttle up, they upgraded the equipment, they made it a lot more sophisticated, newer technology, more powerful computers and CCUs, and they did the experiment again in 2004. Now they opened it for a different place. It was in the Orion constellation, another spot where they thought there was nothing, left the aperture open, fixed, 11 orbits around the earth, and it was 11 days, and then they got what is the picture you’re going to see is the farthest into space we’ve ever looked. They found 10,000 galaxies—10,000 fiery pinwheels, in that one little spot, with billions and billions of stars. To me, you think about how big God is and that He left all that and came to our world (He made all that), and how small we are. We are just a speck of dust. No self-respecting UFO or alien would park here. You just think about how small we are in the scope of things, and yet He loved us so much that He left all that and came to our world.

Scientists back during the Renaissance said, “Yes, we’ve counted the stars. There are 5,213 stars.” But what did the Bible say about the stars? You look in Psalm 147, it says, “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.” That’s why Jesus said He sees every sparrow and He’s numbered the hairs of your head. Hebrews 11:12, “Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” God tells us that the stars are as innumerable as the sand. You know what modern astronomers are saying now when asked about how many stars there are in the universe? They say there are approximately as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand on all the beaches of the world combined. I don’t even know how they know that it’s that limited. That’s why I think we should be reverent when we worship God, because you think about how big He is, how powerful He is, how awesome He is. He deserves our worship.

This whole chapter we’re looking at about the wise men following the star, why did they follow the star? Because they wanted to come and worship the King. Job 22:12, “Is not God in the height of heaven? And see the highest stars, how lofty they are!” God says, “As the heavens are high above the earth, so are My ways above your ways.” He says the earth is His footstool. He inhabits the heavens. He is so great.

You know what I’m excited about, that song “Rock of Ages,” where it says we will soar to worlds unknown. I know that’s not in the Bible, but I believe it, that we’ll be able to go through limitless space exploring. I love to explore. I get antsy. I’ll go see some natural wonder like Carlsbad Caverns, and I enjoy it and it’s fantastic, but you know what keeps going on in my mind when I see it? “I wish I could have been first to discover it.” Or I’ll read in National Geographic about people who found this incredible labyrinth of caves. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be the first man to run into the Redwood forests and see them, or great explorers when they discover a thing that no one had seen, the first one who saw Yosemite, or some of these wonders? Won’t it be something to go exploring God’s universe, places where no man has been before? I’m looking forward to that.

Stars are used for navigation. Where would we be without GPS right now? I’m just personally curious, how many of you have a GPS in your car or on your phone? Let me see your hands. I saw a pretty funny cartoon pinned up somewhere. It showed a picture of this minivan on some windy mountain road where there was a very steep curve with a guardrail and a cliff, and the minivan had gone straight where there was a turn in the road and was flying through the air, plummeting towards the ground. In the caption, a little voice comes from the minivan that says, “Recalculating.” Did I ever tell you about when once I tried to use my GPS to take a shortcut to Covelo? It totally misdirected me, and I was going down logging roads, and I came out in somebody’s private garden. Wrong garden to show up in in the Fall. You have to be careful. Sometimes they’re using old data.

These wise men were following this star because they were looking for the King. They used it for navigation. Stars are for signs sometimes. Luke 21:25 tells us that not only was there a star as a sign of Jesus’ first coming, are there going to be stars connected with signs of His second coming? Luke 21:25, “there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations.”

God’s people are supposed to be like stars. We’re supposed to shine. The Bible tells us to arise and to shine. Paul tells us we’re supposed to be like lights in the world. Jesus saidw “You are the light of the world.” Not only did He say, “I am the light of the world,” He said we’re to be like a city on a hill, like lights in the world. Daniel 12:3, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Not only will we shine like stars here now in this dark world, it tells us that we’ll be able to keep on shining for God forever and ever. “Those who turn many to righteousness.” I want my life to live for Christ and turn people to righteousness, not because I’m a pastor but because I’m a Christian. Every Christian should want their life to be a star people can navigate by, that you guide others. People are looking. Not only is it your children and your friends and family, but others are looking when you don’t think they’re looking, and you want your life to be a guiding light.

I was driving home last week from the office, and I waited too long to change lanes for a turn, and there was more traffic than I had anticipated. Any of you ever been in one of those embarrassing situations where you have to squeeze your way in where all the cars are lined up because you’re going to miss your turn otherwise? So I politely tried to nudge my way in and wave to the people behind me, and I kind of felt bad because everyone stops so that you can squeeze in because you didn’t think ahead. Just let me know I’m not the only one that’s done that before. You try to avoid it, but… I said, “I waited too long; sorry. Can you let me in?” They let me in. They were kind enough, and I kind of felt bad about it because it was bad planning, and sure enough, I looked over, and they pulled up next to me right after, and it was Dick Duerksen and his wife Brenda. And I thought, “Oh, they think Pastor Doug is a bad witness behind the wheel!” People are watching all the time. I’ve zigged and zagged on my way to church and then realized I cut off some of the sweet old ladies that were on their way to the same church. “There goes Pastor Doug!” So some stars are shooting stars. That’s me! Like Jehu. So you want to be a good witness because people are watching. Jesus said (Matthew 13:43), “The righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

It would have been hard for them to navigate by that star, except the star stayed in one place. You’ve looked at the stars at night. If you sit out there and you watch the stars, you see the heavens move. Have you ever been to a planetarium and see them speed it up? The sky moves. But if one star stays in the same place, that’s when these wise men knew this is not a normal star, and it’s not in the course of the planets. It’s hovering in this spot. That’s how they were able to track it. Just last week I was again up in the hills, took a few days off, talking to a friend. He said, “Doug, have you ever noticed there’s this star off in the”—it was in the eastern sky. I had some trees that were blocking it at the time. He says, “I’ve been watching it.” He could see it from his house, and he said, “It’s not moving with the others. It’s not an airplane,” and there were no antennas out there. He said it just stays there. I said it’s probably what they call a geocentric satellite, these stationary satellites that stay in a fixed point over the earth as the earth rotates. That’s how satellite television works. I said, “Just because of the angle of where you are, you’re probably seeing one of those satellites.”

If you’re out on a clear night today, you go out to the high desert of Nevada or somewhere where it’s clear, and you look up at night, you can see more and more space junk that’s shining. I was out there with some friends camping one day, and I saw this great big star. I said, “What is that?” It was moving unlike the other stars, and one of them said, “That’s the Space Station.” I said, “Naw,” because you know guys camping all tease each other and try to make you silly. They send you hunting for a fadoodle or something. I said, “Naw,” and they gave me the binoculars. I looked up, and it was a square star, very distinctly square star, and it was the Space Station going by.

You see all kinds of things now, but this star was fixed. It was a guiding star that they were able to track by. You maybe heard the story in 1833. You’ve all heard about the day the stars fell? It’s during the time of that very aggressive Leonid meteor shower in 1833. Abraham Lincoln was a witness to that. During the civil war he was talking to his generals, and he recounted this story, and it’s in a book by Walt Whitman, “A Lincoln Reminiscence,” and Lincoln said, “When I was a young man in Illinois, I boarded for a time with a Deacon of the Presbyterian church. One night I was roused from my sleep by a rap at the door, and I heard the Deacon’s voice exclaiming ‘Arise, Abraham, the day of judgment has come!’ I sprang from my bed and rushed to the window, and saw the stars falling in great showers!”

Some of you have read about that day when the stars fell, and they were all pouring from a central point in the heavens, just like rain all around the world. It’s like if you were in the middle of your shower in the bathroom, and you turned off the light, and the shower was illuminated, and you could just see it pouring and dividing all around the heavens. The Bible describes it as figs are shaken from a fig tree—unripe figs. Lincoln saw that, and at first he was troubled by it. But he went on to say, “But looking back of them”—he looked behind the shower of astroids and meteors—“in the heavens I saw all the grand old constellations with which I was so well acquainted,” because growing up as a boy in Illinois, he knew the stars. They were immovable and “true in their places.” And he basically told the deacon, “You can go back to sleep. The world is not ending because the constellations are still in their places.” When Jesus comes, it says the heavens will recede as a scroll. Everything is moved out of its place. So this is just a very exciting meteor shower. Those great stars are fixed until the day that Jesus comes.

We’re not supposed to worship the stars. Some of the magi maybe were mixing up their astrology with their astronomy, and I’ll grant you that, but they also were involved in the legitimate study of the stars. God is very clear He doesn’t want us to go see astrologers. Deuteronomy 4:19. We’re not to worship the stars. “Take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.” The stars are really for everyone. They are objects of God’s creation. They’re not intelligences.

No, it doesn’t make any difference at all if you’re born during the time of Pisces or Aquarius or Virgo or anything else. When you think about really how absurd it is that any kind of gravitational pull of these bodies that are hundreds and millions of light years away are going to have some effect on your life because that just happens to be when you came into the world at the hospital, now it’s going to govern the affairs of your life. The only time that stars had any impact like that is they came as signs of someone, like Jesus when He was born. The stars were not governing Christ’s life. Christ governed the stars. It’s a big difference. Astrology is where you’re thinking the stars are affecting your destiny. No. The Bible says sometimes they may be signs, and they might be signs of the second coming. But we’re not to worship the stars. I just wanted to put that in in case any of you do… I don’t believe in fortune cookies, but I read fortune cookies. You’ve paid for it, and you’re going to read it, right? It’s usually just kind of entertaining. But I wouldn’t even read my zodiac in a newspaper, because that’s sort of crossing the line into what people made a religion out of.

Having said that we’re not to worship the stars, we are to worship the One who made the stars, and that’s what these wise men did. I’m so thankful I’m talking to the choir right now, that you faithfully, even though it’s Christmas Eve, you made a journey; you came to church. Some of you came farther than others, and I just appreciate your commitment and your dedication. If you had to come seven miles to church every week, 700 miles to church every week—that would be a little harder of a journey, wouldn’t it, to come and to worship? They went a long way to come and to worship, and when they found Jesus, when they saw the star over the house, they didn’t rejoice because of the star; they rejoiced because they found the King. They came in and they fell down. I would have felt a little strange kneeling before a baby. But they knew who that was. They knew that God had become a man, and what else do you do? Even though He had taken on the form of a baby, He was their Creator, and they fell down and they worshiped Him, and they gave their gifts.

You know what else is interesting? They did not leave and say, “I didn’t get much out of his sermon. Did you?” What kind of sermon do you think little Baby Jesus preached? He may have been eight months old or a year old at that time. They didn’t come because of what they were going to get out of it, did they? They came to worship. Pure, pure worship. New Testament begins with them coming to worship, to give their hearts. They came a long way to honor Him. They didn’t ask to have a church built and their name on the bricks of those churches. They asked for no credit. As a matter of fact, the Bible records they came to worship and doesn’t even tell us their names, because real worship of God is selfless giving, isn’t it? And they brought their gifts—gold, frankincense, myrrh.

Some interesting prophecies even about the identification of those gifts. Gold really represents a gift that you would give a king. Frankincense is consistent with what the priests use. Myrrh is something that was given for a sacrifice. People were anointed with myrrh, sometimes during their death, and sometimes during their marriage, too. You find it in Song of Solomon. So I don’t know what that means, that during your death and your marriage, you both have myrrh. But it represents the wedding of the Lamb, it represents the sacrifice of Jesus, it represents the priesthood of Jesus, and it represents the kingship of Jesus, all wrapped up in those gifts that were given.

You notice when Joseph was in Egypt and he was ruling in Egypt, and Jacob didn’t know that Joseph was Joseph, he just knew he was the prime minister, Jacob said in Genesis 43, “If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man—a little balm and a little honey, spices”—that’s what frankincense was—“and myrrh.” So when Joseph’s brothers came to Joseph, and they knelt before Joseph, and they brought money for their bread, they also had myrrh, and very likely frankincense. Isn’t that interesting? Joseph, who was a type of Christ.

Then you read in Song of Solomon. You find more about myrrh in Song of Solomon than any other book in the Bible because it has to do with love. “Who is this coming out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the merchant’s fragrant powders?” This is a song of the bride’s love for the bridegroom, and it should be a song of our love for Christ, and it’s all about coming and worshiping Him.

Jesus is that star. It says in Revelation 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” A morning star is something that gives us hope because it tells us the night is about to end and the day is about to begin. 2 Peter 1:19, “So we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” God wants that star in our hearts. I want to be someone who worships the Lord that way too. Don’t you? I want to be able to worship God purely. The whole Bible, the whole message of salvation is about coming into a relationship with the Lord where you understand pure worship, loving Him for who He is, following Him as those wise men followed that light, being guided by it, then with abandon and joy—they rejoiced with exceeding great joy when they found the Child, they found the King. Do you have that joy? Have you found Him? Do you want to worship Him? Then they came into the house where He was. They knelt. They worshiped Him. They opened their gifts. They presented them. They did not even ask for a tax-deductible receipt. Isn’t that something? Then they left.

It’s interesting that Herod was so threatened when they didn’t come back and say, “Yes, we found the Baby,” because Herod knew that his days were numbered. It was actually about a year before his death. The name, the official title, that Augustus Caesar had given to Herod was “The King of the Jews,” and when those wise men showed up in Jerusalem—and wise men were the king makers; they picked the kings in Persia—when they showed up with their entourage and they said, “Where is He who is born king of the Jews?” you can understand why he felt a little consternation about that.

So they left. Their gifts were significant enough that when the angel in a dream told the wise men, “You had better go back another way in case you’re being watched,” and then an angel appeared to Joseph and Mary and said, “Herod is going to try and kill the Child. You need to leave,” they were able to go down to Egypt and live off those gifts in Egypt for probably until He was about four years of age. So they were significant gifts.

Shepherds came. They probably didn’t have much, but they gave their hearts to worship Him. All of us can do that right now. That’s the most important gift we can give, our lives, and you know what the Lord really wants? He wants our minds and our hearts. If He has that, He has everything else. Give Him all of your heart and all of your mind and all of your time and your life. Is that your desire, friends? So, this season especially, and as we’re on the threshold of a new year, I’d like to resolve anew by God’s grace to really give all to Him and to worship Him, make Him the center of my life. That’s my desire and my prayer, I trust yours as well. Let’s ask Him.

Father, we’re inspired and humbled when we look at the example of these nameless wise men that covered that vast distance, made that epic pilgrimage, simply to engage in an act of recognizing and worshiping You as King. Lord, I pray that we can all recognize You as King of our lives and that our worship will be sincere and from our hearts. Please bless every person here in their homes, in their lives. Bless our bodies with health, Lord, and strength, and we pray that we can be shining lights for You in our families and our communities. We pray, Lord, also, our church can be a light in this town and wherever the broadcasts go. And most of all, we pray that we will keep Jesus before us in all things to illuminate our minds and hearts as our bright and morning star. Please bless each person here, Lord, and as we go from this place, I pray we’ll recognize that the light of Your Spirit is with us all. We ask this now in Christ’s name and thank You. Amen.

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